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My Dark Vanessa

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4.74  ·  Rating details ·  112 ratings  ·  34 reviews
University of Kansas creative writing PhD and Indiana University MFA graduate Kate Elizabeth Russell's MY DARK VANESSA, pitched as a Lolita story for the #metoo era, a tale of the psychosexual manipulation of a 15-year-old girl by her middle-aged English teacher, told from her perspective and alternating between the present day and their years-long affair, pitched in the v ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: January 23rd 2020 by Fourth Estate
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Kate Elizabeth Russell A big and complicated question! This really is the central conflict of the novel. From a outside perspective, it can be very easy to draw hard lines…moreA big and complicated question! This really is the central conflict of the novel. From a outside perspective, it can be very easy to draw hard lines between consensual sex and abuse, but My Dark Vanessa is told from the perspective of a character who was groomed from a young age, and because of that experience, the lines for her are very much blurred.(less)
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4.74  · 
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 ·  112 ratings  ·  34 reviews


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Will Byrnes
The first GREAT, MUST READ BOOK of 2020.

On the drive home the car lurches over frost heaves and through potholes, an endless wall of pitch black woods on either side. The radio plays hits from the seventies and eighties, Dad tapping the steering wheel along to “My Sharona” while Mom sleeps, her head leaning against the window. Such a dirty mind/ I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind. I watch his fingers tap to the beat as the chorus comes round again. Does he even hear what the
...more
Acacia Ives
This book is a wow. An absolute wow, I couldn’t have picked a better way to explore this subject of an inappropriate relationship between student and teacher. If you like this book you’ll like these violent delights. Similar topic but explored in a different storytelling style. I will warn you this topic is hard to digest. It leaves little to the imagination and fills you with discomfort and unease. Overall one of my favorites of 2019.
Jessica Woodbury
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
When a book is particularly buzzy I start to get grumpy. Too much buzz is not always a good thing and I've been disappointed many times. In addition to that, for the last few years we've been subjected to all kinds of books being branded as #MeToo books because it's become a (very depressing) marketing strategy. So I approached MY DARK VANESSA, a buzzy #MeToo book, with caution. So imagine my surprise when I found that it was not only good but nuanced and interesting. While the ability to openly ...more
Alice Slater
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read book for 2020, My Dark Vanessa explores consent, autonomy and trauma in a way that feels fresh, poignant, and painfully real.

When a lonely fifteen year old falls in love with her teacher, she feels lucky. Strane sees something in Vanessa that no one else does: he sees that she’s special. And she is special, isn’t she?

In 2017, women around the world are standing up to talk about their experiences of manipulation, coercion and abuse by men in power. Vanessa, now 32, is haunted by remi
...more
Hannah
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, 5-stars, fiction
"This, I think, is the cost of telling... once you do, it’s the only thing about you anyone will ever care about. It defines you whether you want it to or not... There must be a point where you’re allowed to be defined by something other than what he did to you."

It is not for me to judge them - how they remembers, how they feel, how they live their lives. We cannot make them into a victim, and force a narrative on her. It is not us to determine good victim or bad, it is not for us to prescribe h
...more
Alicia
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book packs such a punch oh my goodness. Probably one of the best things I've read in a long time and I can't wait for it to come out so I can shove it into the hands of every one I know.
Vanessa is such a complex and well-written character, and you can't help but wanting to shake her the whole way through the novel.
I hope people love this like I do!
Nina
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books
I first heard about this book at the BookExpo Adult Buzz panel last week, where editor Jessica Williams described it as something powerful, difficult, and extraordinary. I work in publishing; I've heard a lot of editors describe their books that way. But I made sure to get a copy anyway.

And what do you know, but it's exactly as described. This was a very difficult book to read, and it doesn't offer easy answers. But I think it offers something better: company, or consolation, if the two can real
...more
Imie (mythicreader)
Thank you to 4th Estate Books for letting me grab an early copy of this book!

‘All he did was fall in love with me and the world turned him into a monster.’

THIS BOOK. This book is one of my favourite reads of the year. My Dark Vanessa is the modern anti Lolita - exploring a student/teacher relationship from the perspective of the girl at age 15 and 32. Vanessa saw this as the big romance of her life, until she is made to face it at 32 as another girl comes forward saying the same teacher sexually
...more
Maura
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2019
It's one of those books where I am hesitant to say I loved it, because it is so challenging to read. I felt deeply uncomfortable, angry, challenged while reading it. I am glad I did- it's an incredibly well written story about sexual violence, power, consent, trauma, healing. The writing is very good- with lines that just blew me away with this singularity of explaining the human condition.
Elora   Cook
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book sucked me in from the first page and called out to me to keep reading throughout the weekend. I'm usually a very slow reader, but when books captivate me like this one did, I fly through it, not getting enough of the voice, the world, the characters, the story.

This was all true and then some for MY DARK VANESSA.

Going back and forth between the year 2000 and 2017, seeing Vanessa go through what she did with her predator teacher to her grappling with the realities of what it did t
...more
Colonelperry42n
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for anyone who has doubted someone's story of being abused/groped before. It definitely justifies the #metoo movement and explains what goes on behind the scenes of some of these cases (at least with younger women). While people have politicized this movement a bit too much, I really liked reading about someone my age reflecting on their own experience and how it fit into all of the chaos surrounding these cases we read about in the papers...I read that Stephen King read thro ...more
Thomas
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely stunning book. The author manages to write about a hugely uncomfortable topic with nuance and skill that is a delight to behold. I read this in two days, which is very fast for me as I usually switch between books, but I had to finish this as quickly as possible.

In a way, I see this as a female response or mirror to Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee in terms of the power dynamics of an older male seducing a younger woman who is his student. However, it is deeper than that and because of th
...more
Nicole
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, 2019
Wow. It’s so difficult to read a book on rape, consent, sexual trauma, and healing and say “this is such a good book”, because it does feel wrong in some way. But Russell took this story, Vanessa’s story, and turned it into a powerful tale about trauma—but also healing.

The story told it to us in two perspectives. Vanessa as a 15 year old girl and Vanessa as an adult—both still in some sort of complicated sexual relationship with her (former) teacher. And Russell told it amazingly well. Her writ
...more
Susanna
I am typically drawn to dark novels (Lolita is a classic favorite of mine) so I was excited to read this. While I think the story gets progressively stronger, I ultimately felt that it was too formulaic. If you’ve ever watched a Law & Order SVU episode or a movie on this topic, the timeline of the story checks all the characteristics/grooming boxes of a pedophile and victim. Which sadly made some of it read like a manual for rapists - instead creating more unique and individualized character ...more
Elisabeth Soane
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing! It’s not the easiest of books to read and you feel incredible sympathy for Vanessa and her life. Vanessa at fifteen has a relationship with her forty two year old English teacher. Years later someone else accuses him of abuse.
Vanessa has to work through her personal history was he the great first love or an abuser?
The book is written in two time frames, 2000 when she was fifteen and 2017 at thirty two.
It’s fantastically written and takes into account the psychological damag
...more
Autumn
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At 15, Vanessa was in a relationship with a teacher three times her age. Now aged 32, she is forced by current events and the social climate to reevaluate what she regards as the great love story of her life.

This is a difficult, gut-wrenching book to read. Vanessa is full of cognitive dissonance, she feels that it's love, believes that she is worshipped, but a distant voice in her head says that it's abuse, and she knows which version she'd rather believe. She is so honest with the reader, in a
...more
Katherine
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book pulls you in close and then makes you really uncomfortable. My Dark Vanessa forces the reader to reckon with how our society fails to protect girls, demonstrating sins of omission and commission. I think that many readers will find it easy to identify with Vanessa, who is lost in a dark and lonely forest. As you journey with her, your heart will ache.
Emily
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
wow, wow, wow.

this book is heartbreaking and incredibly uncomfortable - but so exquisitely and precisely written.

it doesn't come out until january 2020, but I know that I'll be thinking about it for a long long time. it is so important, and i feel so lucky to have been able to have a chance to read it early.
Grace Eliot
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to thank Kate Elizabeth Russell directly for this book, I just finished a proof (which you’ve signed To Fleur, my boss at the bookshop I work in). It was addictive and profound. I will make sure we order a buttload when it’s released officially in January. Few books have gotten their claws in to me and not let go like this one. Thank you.
Sally Boocock
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book to certainly make you think.It is as compelling as it is devastating. I found it incredibly unsettling, powerful and captivating at the same time. The writing is exquisite and mesmerising yet in the same breath disturbing and powerfully raw. A very hard subject to write about but done extremely well.
Bianca Bancroft
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a hard time reading or even picking up books that are dark and cover these kinds of situations, but I am glad I did for this one. This book is truly amazing and mesmerizing and difficult and incredibly well written.
Hannah
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a book. A very difficult, uneasy topic to read about which left me feeling like I couldn’t breath throughout the whole story. I really hope this book makes it big in 2020. It absolutely deserves it. Everyone should read it.
Gem
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star
Vanessa finds herself drawn into a manipulative relationship with her English teacher when she is just 15 years old, in this heart-in-throat tale of abuse & power imbalance.
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Beautifully told from Vanessa’s perspective, ‘My Dark Vanessa’ is wrenching and unputdownable - an important story for the #MeToo generation.
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Out January 2020
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⭐10⭐
...more
Leah
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I certainly didn't like how this book made me feel, but I do want everyone in the world to read it so that we can all talk about it. What an intense, viscerally written book; Stephen King called it a well constructed package of dynamite and that's exactly the right way to describe it.
Mandy
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, arc
RTC soon.
Shakirah Bourne
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once I started reading this book I could not put it down. What a chilling, disturbing but beautiful read. People are going to be talking about this book for years to come.
olabode emmanuel
Exploring the new words
Rachael Lavoie dohn
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Brutal and superb.
Shrina
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book i have read in a long time. Such an accurate, realistic and ultimately heart breaking portrayal of grooming and the long lasting effects
Amanda
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I need to process this before I can write any sort of review. This was a hard book to read. Really, really hard. But it’s brilliant and important.
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Kate Elizabeth Russell was born and raised in eastern Maine. She holds an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.